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Is UNC’s Hairston ready to shoot to the top?

Sep 22, 2012, 7:45 PM EST

NCAA Basketball Tournament - Kansas v North Carolina AP

P.J. Hairston is used to not getting much respect. During recruiting, he complained that Duke didn’t spell his name right. Then he spent much of his freshman season at UNC buried on the bench behind a lineup of future NBA draft choices. Still, he carved out around 13 minute per game and a respectable backup scoring average of 5.7 points per game.

Hairston might have actually made more of his minutes had he shot better. His overall shooting percentage was barely above 30%, and his three-point mark was an even less sightly 27%. As a sophomore, those numbers must improve.

If you believe in the predictive powers of advanced math, good news! Drew Cannon of Kenpom.com ran a bunch of charts this week, full of symbols like <,>,. and %, that strongly suggest that Hairston is ready to blow up in all the right ways. Cannon, in his usual fashion, made crucial distinctions in his predictions, naming Indiana’s Jordan Hulls as a player likely to take more deep shots and make fewer of them (fewer than his insane 47% from last season, mind you). Hairston showed up alongside South Dakota’s Nate Wolters as a player Cannon expects to both shoot more and make more next season.

Hairston started off the year hot, but ended the season at just 27 percent. Wolters made just 24 percent of his three-point attempts. Players rarely shoot so frequently at that level of success, and do so even more rarely when they play for teams who have such high effective field goal percentages. The projections pin Hairston at 38 percent and Wolters at 35 percent for 2013.

Hairston’s ability to create drama from the perimeter — should it materialize as expected — will be a huge boon to the inside play of James Michael McAdoo, and go a long ways toward keeping the Tar Heels on track as royalty in the increasingly more competitive ACC.